For several years now WarBirds (originally known as Confirmed Kill) has graced the unfriendly skies of the Internet, billed as one of the most intense and realistic World War II flight simulators ever attempted for the computer. In WarBirds you don't fly against computer opponents; instead, you face hundreds of other human pilots connected to the same server. Over time, the game has been improved, more historical aircraft have been introduced, and the graphics have undergone tremendous improvement. Until now, interested parties have had to download the entire game. Now, you have the option of buying a boxed version in the store.
WarBirds can be played on iMagic Online with hundreds of other human opponents, or offline with several generic missions and practice missions. WarBirds also supports head-to-head for those who want to play with other humans but don't want to pay the monthly online charges. Playing WarBirds online costs $10 a month and $2 an hour after four hours. Expensive, especially compared with other games of a similar nature? You bet, but in exchange you're getting a quality flight simulation with continued support and some of the most experienced opponents to ever play online.
Now Warbirds features a 3D graphics engine using Microsoft's Direct3D, and the results are pretty spectacular. Aircraft are gorgeously modeled, the terrain flows smoothly, smoke from ground fires wavers, and aircraft flame and explode in the skies. While computer-assisted art with many individually modeled gauges is still used in the cockpit, the rest of the plane is drawn internally as it is seen externally - as a 3D model. This way you can visibly see damage to your aircraft when you glance out of the canopy. System requirements aren't as stiff as other 3D-accelerated games, but a Pentium 90 is required. A separate, non-Direct3D version is also included, and WarBirds is also available on the Macintosh.
Getting into the air is a pretty simple affair, but learning how to fly your aircraft is a completely different matter. There are over 50 aircraft airframes and models to choose from, each with unique flight characteristics and modeling. Learning the advantages, disadvantages, and quirks of an aircraft can literally take tens of hours, and much of that learning cannot be done shooting at dummy drones offline. Choosing a plane and learning its nuances is probably the hardest aspect of WarBirds. Expert pilots know how to fly a variety of aircraft equally well and know how they perform in the game. Aircraft may even have some physical limitations that prove detrimental to your health when you fly. Those who want to skip the complex learning curve of flying altogether can jump in the gunner's seat of a bomber and let someone else fly.
Online there are four countries that battle each other for supremacy in the air and on the ground, each attempting to conquer the others by disabling and capturing all of their airfields. It's a rather simplistic strategic system to give the players something to do; a much more detailed system is in the works. Typical arenas usually house between 40 and 200 pilots and over 20 airfields of various sizes, which can result in some extremely hairy dogfights. Because this is an Internet game, you will run into another frustration: lag, which is especially prominent in these large dogfights. Despite all of the prediction and anti-congestion technology built into the game, Internet lag, bad ping times, and packet loss can quickly kill the enjoyment of a dogfight.
WarBirds promotes a huge virtual pilot community, which stretches into all professions and people. There are over a hundred "squadrons" or groups of pilots that team up whenever they can online, conventions are held every year in Texas, and Interactive Magic Online's technical support is some of the best in the industry. The boxed version includes everything needed on a CD-ROM as well as a 72-page manual, a reference card, and $30 of free online time. When you're flying against hundreds of human opponents, it's the best kind of action there is. Try it out and see if you agree.